In times of crisis and uncertainty, entrepreneurs are more likely to look outside of themselves for answers. Desperation makes the idea of a playbook—a quick-fix rule sheet outlining what worked for someone else in the marketplace—even more appealing. But we need to resist the temptation to check our creativity at the door. In this environment of high disruption, when all the rules have suddenly changed, it is more important than ever to ditch the playbook and focus on the toolkit instead.
There are three reasons to toss out the playbook. First, anything that has already been disclosed lacks an essential element of surprise. In sports, a play is successful when it is so novel—so innovative and unexpected—that no one sees it coming. By this logic, following someone else’s playbook inherently lacks ingenuity.
This leads to the second problem with playbooks: They invite copycats and crowd the space with imitator competition.